China told visiting former U.S. president Jimmy Carter it hopes the United States will thwart Taiwan's contentious plan to hold a referendum next year on the island's U.N. membership.
China, which has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since their civil war split in 1949, has warned the island against going ahead with the referendum, which it perceives as a formal declaration of independence that could lead to military conflict.
"The Taiwan issue concerns China's territorial integrity and sovereignty," the official People's Daily quoted Xi Jinping, ranked sixth in the Communist Party hierarchy, as telling Carter in Beijing on Wednesday.
"(We) hope the U.S. side will join the Chinese side to resolutely oppose and effectively stop ( Taiwan President) Chen Shui-bian from pushing forward the 'U.N. admission referendum' and other ' Taiwan independence' splittist activities," Xi said.
The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, recognizing "one China", but is obliged by the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island defend itself.
Xi, front-runner to become China's next generation leader, said the United States and China should "jointly maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and Sino-U.S. common interests".
Taipei, still formally styled the Republic of China, held China's U.N. seat until 1971 when the world body ousted it and admitted Beijing. Taiwan has failed in successive re-entry bids over the past 15 years.
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, Taiwan's bid is doomed because China has veto power on the U.N. Security Council. ( Reuters )